Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Spark It Up!

You’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,”  and you’re getting ready to clean up your writing space/office. What things “spark joy” and what would you get rid of? Do you keep old drafts of stories/novels, e-versions, paper? Copies of your books, others’ books? Knickknacks? Etc.

From Frank

Spark It Up!  That's actually the name of the Co-Ed softball team I played on this summer. I think there may been a double or triple entendre intended there, to be honest. It was a great group of people, many of whom I didn't know before the season started. We lost every game until July, when we went on a little bit of a winning streak. People had fun, they were kind to each other, and you know what?

It sparked joy in me.

But the question at hand is about where we work at our craft. Where the magic happens. What sparks joy? What goes to Goodwill?

Looking around my workspace, I can tell you right now -- for the next year or so, nothing goes. It all brings me joy, even if there is sometimes a tinge of bittersweet.

So what fills my workspace?

First off, it's a little messy, I'll admit. I'm not an Oscar, but I probably lean slightly closer to him than to Felix. [If you don't get that reference, Google The Odd Couple and you'll be up to speed]. My work area has the things I  need and want, and they are accessible, but Writer's Desk Illustrated isn't going to feature my desktop on its cover anytime soon.

I've got the tools of my trade:  computer screens, speakers, microphone, headphones, game controller, connection wires, earbuds, an arm strap phone holder for workouts, a posture-correcting strap contraption that I'm not sold is working, a Bluetooth speaker, in-basket for those few bills that still come on paper, a box with writer cards/bookmarks (contacts from LCC that I still need to reach out to...), and a half dozen guitar picks.

Does any of that bring me joy?

Not all of it. I need most of it for one thing or another to do the work of being a writer. But the game controller is for fun, and so are the guitar picks. The guitar itself is within arms reach, and it definitely brings me joy, regardless of how good at playing it I am not. My bio doesn't say I'm a tortured guitarist for nothing...

But I do have some other things in the workplace and on my desk itself that are purely for the purpose of joy.  Some are what you'd expect, and things you probably have an equivalent of.  There are photos of all three of my kids, and one of almost all my siblings together in one shot. Some figurines on top of a bookshelf that is mostly reserved only for Frank Zafiro titles (two shelves so far!). And of course, there is the latest "school picture" of my wife, who is a teacher, so she still has picture day every year. She's my #1 reader and biggest fan, so her photo is correspondingly the largest on the desk. 

I'm officially a grandfather now, so a picture of me and the two little guys taken on Father's Day is my desktop background these days...

With Malcolm (right)  and Linus (left)

Yeah, that's a very particular kind of joy, isn't it?

There are three other items of note.  Next to one computer screen is a circular silver case containing a rosary. I'm not Catholic, but my Nana was a devoted adherent. I bought the rosary for her at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice in 2013, and she loved it. After she passed away, my Dad suggested that I might like to have it as a keepsake. I'm glad he did. I don't need a piece of religious jewelry to remember Nana, but having the case in my sight line every day is comforting. She was a wonderful woman.

A second piece is my retired police badge. It's in the bottom left drawer, in the same lockbox as my passport, so it's out of sight. But I know it is there. It represents twenty years of my life. Twenty years of service on my part, and I won't be modest here:  I gave a lot. But I got back even more. Being a cop may have brought with it some ugly scars, but it also gave me pride at making a difference. The police department gave me a good living with good benefits for my family. And it gave me a second family. The men and women I served with were, almost without exception, honorable, dedicated, good people that I am proud to have stood next to. Those very few who didn't meet that standard are unfortunate, but they only stand out like they do because of how exemplary the rest are.

On the rare occasion I pull out that badge and take a look at it, I feel mostly pride and satisfaction, and a little sadness. But wrap those all together, and it still comes up joy.

Captain Frank Scalise
SPD 1993-2013
The final piece of joy sits on top of my computer. It's a stuffed plush toy replica of a black lab named Merlot. Merlot has a vest on that says PADS. PADS is a police community outreach program of the Regina Police Service in Regina, Saskatchewan. Now, why would I have a stuffed toy from Canada? Well, after I retired from active police service in 2013, I spent about four years teaching a leadership program to police agencies across the US and Canada. One of the places I spent multiple sessions was Regina, and I had a special connection to those officers in the province of Saskatchewan. Teaching in the aftermath of my retirement (my police career got a little ugly near the end) really helped heal up some emotional wounds, and coupled with how earnest, kind, and dedicated the men and women were everywhere I taught -- but especially in Saskatchewan -- I was able to finally close out my law enforcement career on a completely positive note rather than the mixed feelings I left my old department with.

Merlot, watching over me
Jumping forward four years later to my final session teaching leadership in Regina, Merlot's officer handler presented me with the plush toy. They'd been a limited run, made for kids, and they were down to only a few left. But she appreciated the course and my role in bringing it to them, and so gave me this gift. Over the four year stint, I received a number of tokens like this -- shirts, hoodies, cups, challenge coins, and like -- and I treasured each of them for the sentiment behind them. Merlot gets to be the symbol for all of those gifts, perched atop my computer, still being a service dog even as a stuffed toy.

If I am being honest, I didn't start writing full time -- truly full time -- until I hung up my powerpoint slides at the end of 2017. And I don't think I'd be banging away at it now with the same kind of vigor and full heart if it weren't for a few things. Family support for one, particularly my wife and best friend, Kristi. My career in law enforcement for two. And that last stint of teaching in law enforcement, for three.

There's a symbol of each of those things on (or in) my desk, serving as daily reminders, and bringing me joy.

They're not going anywhere.


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1 comment:

Susan C Shea said...

Interesting post, Frank, with lots of hints of tales to tell. I'm sure your novels incorporate some of your cop career, the good and the not-so-good.